15 March 2018

At least he didn't tinker with tax rates, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said in response to Philip Hammond's Spring Statement.

That seemed to sum up the business reaction to a speech which offered some reassuring news about general economic trends and some hints as to what might be in the Budget at the end of the year, but very little in the way of new initiatives.

This was all to the good, the BCC said: “The Chancellor must resist calls to pour money into politically-attractive, short-term spending priorities.”

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, agreed that the absence of further amendments to tax and spend policies makes sense to businesses at the present time although it expressed concerns that the outlook for growth remains on the weak side at a time when global markets are expanding.

Referring to a subject on which the Chancellor had had little to say, EEF Chief Executive Stephen Phipson warned: “It is now critically important the Government achieves a positive transition deal at the European Council meeting next week to provide business with the certainty and confidence to invest.”

A “no-frills” Spring Statement was also just what the Institute of Directors (IoD) had been looking for.

Senior Economist Tej Parikh said that the apprenticeship levy, immigration skills charge and pensions auto-enrolment were quite enough for businesses to be coping with at the moment.

Finally, Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, saw the Statement as a vote of confidence in British business although she too noted that economic growth in the UK remains lukewarm,

“This underlines just how vital it is to secure a Brexit that delivers for jobs and an industrial strategy that helps transform UK productivity in all corners of the country,” she argued.